December 12 – The judge in the FIFAGate trial in New York has deepened the intrigue over why current Brazilian football boss Marco del Nero is still at large even though he is one of those indicted, suggesting he might have “friends in high places”.
Last month a former accountant working with Argentina-based marketing firm Torneos y Competencias testified how he handled the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to powerful south American officials in exchange for the rights to broadcast tournaments and matches – one of those officials being Del Nero who, remarkably, has not been banned by FIFA like so many other powerbrokers, not least his on-trial predecessor Jose Maria Marin.
Judge Pamela Chen made her remark in response to Marin’s attorney Jim Mitchell following a strategy of blaming Del Nero for the crimes that Marin is accused of and insisting his client was a mere bit-player in the $200 million corruption scandal.
Marin was one of those arrested in Zurich in May 2015, charged with seven counts of corruption, and was later extradited to the USA. Del Nero, who was also in Zurich, managed to fly back to Brazil, which has no extradition treaty with the US, and has remained there ever since as he maintains his innocence.
On Monday, Mitchell questioned US Internal Revenue Service agent Steve Berryman as to why Marin had been sanctioned but Del Nero hadn’t.
Prosecutor Samuel Nitze responded that Berryman “could not know the criteria that led to FIFA banning Marin, but not Del Nero.”
Judge Chen then intervened, admonishing Mitchell for drawing inferences about why Del Nero was still in his job. Having sent the jury out of the court, she commented: “Who knows what it means? Maybe Del Nero has friends in high places.”
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